I’m hesitant to generalise here, but I couldn’t think of a more catchy headline, so just bear with me. Because lately I’ve been starting to worry a bit about my memory. Not for the big important things, but more for the everyday smaller things. It’s not forgetting general life stuff, like R10 for civvies day, or must buy milk on the way home (although that happens too, obvs), it’s specifically related to people, experiences and conversations.
Here’s an example: say there is a mom you see outside the music room as you wait to pick up your kid. You chat occasionally and you actually kind of know each other, because you see each other for 5 minutes every few months or so. But then you see the same mom at gym, or out at a dinner, or in a corporate environment and you have a vague feeling that you know her, but you can’t for the life of you put your finger on where from. So you just introduce yourself again and then she says “yes of course I know you, I’m xxx’s mom” and then you feel doff and rude and many other non-good feelings.
Even worse is when that mom doesn’t say the above, and they just reintroduce themselves – and you begin the most ridiculous charade of pretending to meet each other (all over again), until the penny drops much later and you feel stupid. How there can be so little space in your head to remember people’s names, faces and their context? Maybe it’s part of getting older too, and simply having MORE experiences rammed inside your brain?
There are memories from childhood, school, university, travelling (did I meet them in London? Do I know them from that Kontiki trip to Spain?). Did I meet them in this job, or at this job? Are they from Kid 1’s school or Kid 2’s? We’ve changed cities, moved schools and switched classes multiple times, so can I be blamed for not remembering exactly who is who and where they are from?
Maybe I can though, because there are some people that are very good at it. I have friends who can recall exact conversations, outfits and events that are well over 20 years old: “Remember that time at the U2 concert when I was wearing those red pants, and you had on that green tracksuit top with the stripes, and there was this weird guy called Phil and we had to try lose him at the bar?”. “Um no, all I remember is that I went to a U2 concert some time when I was 18 and it was fun”.
Do we all have different capacity for memory? Maybe some of us remember emotions better, while others never forget a face? My mother-in-law for instance, can spot someone walking past her in a shopping mall that she knew over 30 years ago and say “There’s Jenny de Villiers from Oakhurst Road! We used to play tennis when the kids were little (she had an excellent serve), ok I’m going to say hi”. Now I imagine Jenny looks quite different now, but my mother-in-law never gets it wrong.
I’ve had quite meaningful conversations with people and then afterwards realised that I don’t know their names. Do I ask them next time I see them? Do I ask a mutual friend? When does it become awkward? Shall I carry around a little notebook and scribble context in there, i.e under M for Music Room, start writing down snippets of conversation and names and descriptions: “Maria, long dark hair, mother to Sophie, works in banking, likes to trail run on weekends”.
The reason it makes me anxious is that we all know that feeling when you meet someone that you must have met about 4 or 5 times, and they stubbornly don’t remember you at all. It makes you feel invisible and unimportant. Completely forgettable. I don’t want to be the person causing those feelings in others.
Another added layer of complexity to the above issue is this whole blogging thing. It doesn’t happen a lot but sometimes I’ll meet someone at a party or event and they’ll know me from social media or blogging – but I won’t know them. They will be super friendly and warm, which is wonderful, but I’ll have no clue who they are, and whether they are actually mom of a kid at school, or someone I met at work, or a mutual friend I met a few times before at a braai.
The whole thing makes my brain whirl around in not very neat patterns. I simply feel like I’m holding so much up there in my brain cells (work, parenting, life) that clearly some names, conversations and memories get booted out, before they have time to settle in my head.
Do any of you experience a similar issue? How do you counteract it? Send advice!